Zombie Deals: the obstacle to sales that you have hidden in plain sight

Zombie Deals

We have enough obstacles to sales but we often add big obstacles without meaning to. I’m talking about the undead, “zombie deals” in your pipeline. They never close and they never die, but you spend lots of time and energy chasing them.

Every once in a while, you are forced to admit that you haven’t closed them the date you projected in the CRM system, so you move the date out. Your forecast looks great, but it’s partly full of zombie deals. It’s bad enough that you won’t win these deals, but what’s worse is that they take your attention away from genuine opportunities.

How can you tell a zombie deal? The details will vary depending on your company, but generally, they love to talk about ideas and concepts and benefits, but not about decision making, including budgets and timelines (and they may hide the decision maker). If they don’t want to talk about how they make these decisions, when they are looking to implement your solution, what they would need to go forward, etc, they are zombies.

It’s natural to want to talk about the ideas and concepts first, to see if there’s a fit. If there is, the next logical step is to see if there’s a next logical step. That step may not be “and now we hand you money.” There may be lots of other things they need to validate first. That’s why the particulars of your sales cycle are so important. However, most serious buyers will be willing to discuss how they make decisions. If they can’t do that, that’s a big red flag.

Doesn’t mean they are bad people, or even bad leads. They are just not sales-ready.

Note that it’s ok for them to say, “thanks, this is interesting. We’d like to work on getting this in our budget for next quarter.” Just don’t forecast that it’s going to close next week. Note the appropriate next steps in whatever system you use to track your sales tasks, and move on.

How can you deal with zombies already in your pipeline? Create a bucket in your CRM called “Zombie”. Put all the deals that lack real close dates and understanding of the buyer’s process in there. Then, the clock starts ticking. It could be a day, a week, a month, depending on your business, but if you can’t figure out what’s going on in that time, mark the opportunity as lost and move on. (Note, you hopefully find out one way or another before the next review. Then you either resurrect the deal, or mark it as lost.)

Once you get the “zombie deals” out of your pipeline, you’ll have a lot more time and energy to focus on the real deals, and on the prospecting you might have to do to make up for the zombie pipeline.

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